Photographer Dawoud Bey captured the history and landscape of America using black and white photography. Try using only black and white materials to create your own artwork that shows a landscape that is meaningful to you.
Dawoud Bey is a photographer who usually takes pictures of people but for the exhibition Dawoud Bey: Elegy, he took pictures of the world around him. He traveled to places in the United States like Louisiana, Ohio, and even Richmond, Virginia, to take pictures of landscapes because he believes that they can tell stories about our history.
Look at the photograph Untitled (Trail and Trees) below which shows a path in Richmond along the James River. This path is known as the Richmond Slave Trail, the historic trail where Africans arrived in bondage and were sold into slavery.
Do you see trees? Leaves? The ground? Notice how everything is in black and white and there is no color. What areas of the picture are darkest? What areas are the lightest?
“Always, I’m working in the space of the imagined, seeing the landscape both as it is, but also imagining it as I want it to appear in its final form as a photograph.” – Dawoud Bey
In art, Value refers to how light or dark an object or area is. These values range from bright white to dark black and includes all the shades of gray in between (sometimes called midtones).
Before you start your drawing, practice your drawing skills by making a value scale! Draw a rectangle and divide it into 5 or more equal parts.
Begin by establishing the lightest and darkest values–leaving the box on one end empty as the lightest value, and filling the box on the opposite end to make it as dark as possible.
Next, fill in your remaining boxes, fading them from lightest to darkest to create a complete scale. Apply more pressure with your drawing utensil to lighten the tone you are shading in!
Step 1: Start with a piece of paper and pencil.
Step 2: Think of a scene from nature that is meaningful to you. This could be a park, an interesting place you visited or someplace you think is important. Begin by lightly outlining your landscape, drawing the biggest or most important features first. Once your composition is laid out, you can add in shading for different values, and draw the smaller details.
Step 3: If you’re working from a photograph on a phone, try setting a black and white filter on it to help you visualize where to put the darkest and lightest values.
Dawoud Bey took twelve photographs of the Slave Trail in Richmond. See some of these images below.
Untitled (James River), 2022, from the series Stony the Road, 2022, Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953), gelatin silver print, Gift of Mrs. Alfred duPont, by exchange, 2020.168.9
Untitled (Crooked Trees), 2022, from the series Stony the Road, 2022, Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953), gelatin silver print, Gift of Mrs. Alfred duPont, by exchange, 2020.168.8
Untitled (The Light on the Trail), 2022, from the series Stony the Road, 2022, Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953), gelatin silver print, Gift of Mrs. Alfred duPont, by exchange, 2020.168.7
Untitled (Tangled Branches), 2022, from the series Stony the Road, 2022, Dawoud Bey (American, born 1953), gelatin silver print, Gift of Mrs. Alfred duPont, by exchange, 2020.168.6